One of things I find dismaying about the use of text and, to a certain extent, email is the lack of trust involved. It is easier to issue commands through text, to make your point without concern for nuance or tone, to act in pure self-interest. Each text is a flat communication. I have taken to ignoring texts I find offensive and the effect has been somewhat liberating. My lack of response may indeed seem rude in return, although I have yet to be challenged on my silence. My response I have decided shall be this:
I’m always happy to talk with you. Please come and talk to me. I will listen.
All communication is a two-way process, a dialogue between those who wish to speak and those who listen to what is said. A text which denies the recipient the opportunity to listen short circuits the communication process.
If we have something valuable to say, we need to ensure that we have someone who is prepared to listen. Every time we write, we open the door to someone to listen. Every time we write and we acknowledge that there is someone out there who will listen, we build trust. Writing even a text without acknowledging the listener is not communication, it is shouting. And shouting erodes trust.
DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT I SAID?
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is trying to make their point by forcing someone else to acknowledge their words? I have. I have witnessed this form of emotional bullying countless times. Unfortunately it has often been children on the receiving end. I shall never forget the visceral disgust I felt on witnessing an autistic teenage boy being yelled at by a senior teacher whose rage was so extreme it reduced all the classrooms in the corridor to silence. I have had people try to force their opinions on me, and my response, too, has been silence.
Silence is not the protest of the weak; it is the voice of the strong. Silence is the only response to any form of communication that abuses trust.
Trust begins when we can listen without fear of manipulation. Trust begins when we stop playing status games and start to listen.
In order to listen to others we must listen to ourselves. I realise that when I’m with a person who is determined to make their point without acknowledging my role as a listener that I get defensive. Instead of listening harder to myself, I start to lean in harder to what they are saying. In this way I become deaf to my own voice, my own thoughts, my own ideas. Rarely in my professional life do I meet someone who is truly interested in my ideas – most people talk because they want to share their ideas. A lot of people talk to writers because they think the writer can help them with their own writing project.
I’m getting better at going quiet on people who stop the communication process. It has made me realise that the people who value trust have the most to say.